Sunday, October 16, 2011


Part 4 in our Series of contenders for WTA: Player of the Year. Next week we will look at some other contenders for this prestigious title.

See Part I, II and III.

Winning a Grand Slam is the highlight of many players’ careers. They work hard. Train hard and they sacrifice a lot just to be able to even qualify for a Grand Slam and even getting to the second week of a Major is a really big accomplishment. When you come from circumstances that are not the usual places, i.e. country clubs or you do not have a big name trainer, or you do not have the money or the looks that comes with being a protégé, when you finally win a Grand Slam, you are showered with so many expectations and money and so much is expected of you that some players falter while others use it as an opportunity to shine.

For years Samantha Jane Stosur, a player from a country that has provided Grand Slam champions in the same way that many others have not, was known more for her doubles prowess, moreso than her singles career. In late 2007 Stosur was struck down with Lime disease, a condition that left her off the Tour for a time. When she returned in 2008 she decided to concentrate on her singles career, rather than doubles. The going was tough and she took her losses with a stoicness that has always defined her. In the face of adversity she would have a semblance of a smile on her face.

In 2010, Stosur went on a run on the red clay of Europe, the likes of which had never been seen before the great Justine Henin. In getting to the finals of Roland Garros, she beat in succession, Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic. It was a masterclass in topspin, big serving and playing your best tennis when under pressure. Unfortunately for Stosur she came across another player who was playing with complete and utter abandon. She would lose in straight sets to Francesca Schiavone of Italy in what I consider one of the best tennis matches I have ever seen and what is sure to be a classic that needs to be shown on rain delays.

After that defeat, most players would have gone away, but not Stosur. She persevered, hired herself a sports psychologist and went back to what she did best. There were no titles and her losing streak would see her fall outside the top 10 for a brief moment in 2011, but it is said that “what is for you cannot be unfor you” and watching her performance in the 2011 US Open final against Serena Williams, you have to think that it was her destiny that she would win a Grand Slam.

Stosur faced insurmountable challenges during her 2 week stint in Flushing. She played some of her best tennis when under pressure. She came up big when she needed to against Nadia Petrova, Maria Kirilenko and against Angelique Kerber. These names are not Grand Slam champions. They are not players who you would put your money on, but Stosur struggled mightily against these players but she came through. When she got to the final, she faced a player who had endured a lot since her last Grand Slam title. Serena had just beaten her a few weeks ago decisively in the Toronto finals and here they were once again. This time, Stosur would do what she needed to do when it mattered most.

That stoicness that has defined her career was put on full display. Her serve worked. Her groundstroke worked. It helped that the person on the other side of the net did not seem to turn up for work that day, but in saying that, it would have taken away from the shine of Stosur’s victory. She played amazingly well and fully deserved her victory.

Stosur’s year has not been kind to her. She had a losing streak heading into Flushing and apart from that title, she has yet to win another this season, having just lost to Marion Bartoli in the final of Osaka. She has qualified for the Year End Championships but one has to wonder just how she will deal with the expectations that have been placed on her now that she has won a Grand Slam title.


This is the third part in our series of contenders for WTA: Player of the Year. Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 here.

The year was 2008. The event: French Open. She was playing Kai Kanepi, a player that I have always personally liked to watch and who I believed had a sure shot at reaching a Grand Slam final or even winning one. Before that though, there was a result that left me in awe. Petra had taken out Venus Williams in 3 tough sets in the Cellular World Cup in Memphis earlier in the 2008 season.

When she was slated to face Serena Williams in the second round of the Australian Open in 2010, I was understandably nervous for Ms. Williams. However, she lost to Ms. Williams 6-2, 6-1. Later that season she would go on to face Serena again in the semifinals of Wimbledon, where after putting up a tough fight in the first set, taking it to a breaker, she would lose the match in straight sets. However, prior to that Wimbledon semifinal match, Petra would go on to save multiple set and match points in her quarter final match against Kaia Kanepi. However, it was early on in the season that Petra had started to make her presence felt on the women’s tour.
The 2010 season however signified just what was to come with Kvitova in 2011.

In her first tournament of the season at the Brisbane International, she defeated up and coming rising star, Andrea Petkovic to win that tournament. She then lost in the third round to eventual champion Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open. Showing that she has the capacity to rebound from defeats, the next time she met Clijsters was at the Open Gaz, Paris Indoors. In that tournament she beat Kim Clijsters in a display of power and precision to win her second title of the season.

Kvitova has always been an inconsistent player and her results in 2011 have showed why many of her fans are left holding their heads and wondering what is going on with her. Petra’s results throughout the season have been head scratching or blink and you miss them moments. Her results after winning the Paris Indoors went something like this:-

• fell 1st round at Dubai
• fell 1st round at Indian Wells
• reached 3r at Miami
• won fourth WTA title at Madrid
• reached 4th round at Roland Garros
• runner up at Eastbourne

Since winning Wimbledon, Petra has reverted to her first round losing days. Much of this has to do with her inconsistency, but some of it can also be attributed to injuries. She was diagnosed earlier this year with asthma, which seemed to affect her more during the North American part of the Tour, perhaps due to the high level of humidity that occurs during this time of the year.

Receiving a wild card and seeded No. 1 at the tournament in Linz, Petra would go on to beat some notable players, including former No. 1, Jelena Jankovic in 3 sets, in a match which included some wonderful tennis and then went on to beat Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets in a display of tennis not seen since her Wimbledon run.

Every tennis fan agrees that when Petra is on, she is really on, and when she is off, all you can do is say Oh My in the same way that Dick Enberg says it. Petra has always reminded me of a young Venus Williams. All that power, poise, no outward sign of emotion, those deep hard groundies and those unforced errors that just keep piling up during a match and then she wins, despite her best efforts to lose.

With 5 titles to her credit this year, her wins against top 10 opponents, the fact that she has won a Grand Slam, a Premier Mandatory event, and has qualified for the first time for the Year End Championships, Petra Kvitova has put herself in the driver’s seat for WTA Player of the Year.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I have tried on several occasions to write the second in our series on contenders for the WTA: Player of the Year. You would think with 4 different Slam winners, 3 of them first time winners, that it would be easy to write the narrative for these awesome women of the WTA, and especially the narrative for Li Na, but this has been without a doubt the most difficult post I have ever written.

I think one of the reasons why I am finding it so difficult to write about Li is that I am intrigued and confused about Li. I have always been unimpressed with her style of play. There does not seem to be much imagination to her game, and her attitude on court leaves a lot to be desired. However, her press conferences and the paths that she has taken to winning her first Grand Slam title and being the first player from China to win a Grand Slam title has left me being intrigued and admiring of that aspect of her persona.

However some of her recent utterances have left me shaking my head in disgust as for a woman to basically imply that the women of the WTA are not as mentally tough as the men leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. I understand that there is a level of sexism that permeates the narrative about women’s tennis. It is either they are all lesbians; they are on steroids; or as some would say they are so muscular as to not even look feminine, the commentary about the women of the WTA has not always been, to put it politely, very tennis friendly.

However, when a champion such as Li, a champion who has overcome so many personal obstacles in her own life, to now be ranked as one of the biggest stars of the WTA, a signal of hope for a country’s women and a player who will now find herself in the conversation every time she enters a tournament, her recent utterances leave a lot to be desired and really sets back the progress that have been made by Billie Jean and the Gang of Nine in seeking equality and recognition for female professional tennis players.

In reviewing Li’s year, one could be asked how in the name of all that is holy did she manage to win a Grand Slam, beating the likes of Sharapova, the allegedly toughest player on the WTA mentally, or indeed beat defending champion Francesca Schiavone in straight sets. Li’s path to the final was filled with intrigue and drama. She played some tough matches but in the final, just as Schiavone did before, she played absolutely flawless tennis. She served well, returned even better, did not get down on herself, and took the opportunities when they were presented to her.
Li has won one other title this year, at Sydney, beating Australian Open champion Clijsters in what was a very good match.

There have been much written about Li’s slump since winning the French Open, but a quick check of her year in review on the WTA’s website shows an observer exactly what you usually get with Li. There is a reason why she has such a small number of titles since joining the Tour. In her first 5 tournaments, apart from reaching the final of Sydney and the final of the Australian Open, Li’s record at regular Tour events have been a series of 1st rounds, 2nd round etc. Her best performance at regular Tour events prior to the French Open were at Rome where she fell in the semifinals to Stosur and her win at Sydney.

By winning a Grand Slam, Li has put herself in the conversation for Player of the Year. She has qualified for the Year End Championships and one can only hope that despite her recent utterances of not being able to find her game, she will embrace the challenge of being a Year End Champion and play like the champion we know she can be.

Give us your thoughts on Li as WTA Player of the Year

Next up: Petra Kvitova

Friday, September 30, 2011


Today starts the first in a series of the list of contenders for WTA Player of the Year. Before we reveal the players, it is instructive to note what are the requirements for Player of the Year. These fall into 5 categories, namely:-

• Number of titles won;
• Win/loss record against top 10 opponents;
• Performance at the Grand Slams;
• Performance at the Tour level; and
• Still being talked about

Number of Titles Won:

This category is self-explanatory. It basically shows which player has been the most consistent. The most healthy and who has, despite the opponent across the net has battled through and won a given number of tournaments.

Win/Loss against top 10 opponents:

In this category, while most of the top 10 may not have reached the quarters onwards of most events, at some point, whomever is at the top of this category has shown some amount of consistency in her game and indeed in her approach to the game to be able to beat the majority of her peers on all surfaces throughout the year.

Performance at the Grand Slams:

Again, this is self-explanatory. Performance at the Grand Slams are different in that there is no one there holding your hand (on court coaching), there are no do-overs (you only get 4 chances) and your name will be written in history if you are able to bag one of the 4.

Tour Level Performance

Day in and day out you are there. You are consistently in the quarters, semis and sometimes even the finals of the regular Tour events. Your ranking, and indeed your status in the game shows what an incredible performer you are.

Still Being Talked About

What is the level of talk that surrounds you when you play? Did you hit a great shot? As fans reminisce about the year that was are they still talking about the shot that you hit in the early part of the season? Are fans and journalists still watching your matches on YouTube?

The first contender for Player of the year is none other than Kim Clijsters.

If there was a player who generates so much commentary from both fans and tennis journalists alike it would be Kim Clijsters. In her second career Clijsters has redefined her career. From a choker who could not finish at the Majors, Clijsters became a force to be reckoned with at the hard court Majors. This year she won her first Major outside of the US Open by winning the Australian Open. Clijsters has for better or worst (depending on who you speak with) somehow made us believe that getting married, having a family and playing tennis is a great accomplishment. As someone who has personally raised children all the while working, I wish someone had given me the kudos that Clijsters seems to have generated for herself just by doing what comes naturally.

In any event, Clijsters started the season on a positive note. She got to the finals of Sydney, where she played Li Na. Up 5-0 in the first set, Clijsters would go on to lose the next 6 games, losing the first set in a tie-break. She would then promptly go away for the second set, handing Li her first title of the new season.

Of course, this loss prompted the pundits to start revising their views as to whether she would finally win a Major outside of the US Open. She answered those questions comprehensively by playing an effective game plan through 6 rounds at the AO, where she raised the trophy and secured her place in the Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately for Clijsters that is where her season started and stopped. At the Paris Indoors she was beaten by young rising star, Petra Kvitova in straight sets in the finals and literally disappeared after that. She retired in her first round match in Marbella and did not show up for the rest of the clay court season, citing injury. She did not play the French Open and exited in the third round of Wimbledon. She returned to the Tour in Toronto and retired in her opening round match. She did not defend her title at the USO.

During the spring, citing the radiation concerns in Japan she informed the media that she would not be playing the Asian swing this year. While she has qualified for the End of Year Championships, I am not confident that Clijsters will play for the rest of the year.

I don’t see retirement coming in early 2012, but once the Olympics are over, I think that will be Clijsters’ swan song.

In assessing whether Clijsters is the WTA Player of the Year we look at whether she has met any of the criteria mentioned above:-

• Number of titles won – 1 – Australian Open

• Win/loss record against top 10 opponents – 2

• Performance at the Grand Slams – on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being exceptional, you would have to give her a 3 having regard to her win at the Australian Open.

• Performance at the Tour level – due to injuries sustained over the season this was negligible at best.

• Still being talked about – unfortunately Clijsters is being talked about for all the wrong reasons, as most of the talk is centered around whether she will indeed retire before or after the Olympics.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Usually the time after the US Open is when tennis goes into the doldrums but due to the constant whining of some of the top players on the men's tour, tennis is in the news now more than ever.


I have always taken exception to millionaires griping about how life is unfair. I usually say, wail and gnash your teeth to me when you are unable to pay your utility bills or when you have to look at your children dying for hunger. Same thing applies in tennis. While the top male players gripe about the schedule and threatening strike action, I can only say to them, in the words of Michael Stich (and it really pains me to agree with him, especially knowing his views on female tennis players) but these young professional male players really need to just shut up and play.

A quick glance at the amount of money earned by the top 4 players on the ATP, as against the rest of the field, makes you realise that these players who are complaining about scheduling and in the case of Murray stating that if they had to play for longer periods they would need to get more money, stops short of being greedy, not really in tune with what is happening in the world of economics, and indeed supposes that men's tennis is all about the top players.

One of those 4 guys who are complaining so vociferously about the schedule and prize money should go and talk to Dennis Kudla who has only made 33,000 for the year. Andy Murray has made 3.5M, Rafael Nadal has made 6.2M, Djokovic 10M and Federer 3M. Compare that to even the rest of the men in the top 10 and one wonders what Murray and Nadal are complaining about.


In today's Mailbag, L. Jon Wertheim intimated that as with criminals, your past is taken into account when judgment is being passed. Judges, he posits, look at the records of criminals before them in order to consider whether some type of leniency or whether they should throw the book at repeat offenders. In this regard, one would think Serena Williams' history of professional conduct would mitigate her in the public's eye in terms of her behaviour. Apparently, that is not the case, because according to L. Jon Wertheim, Serena's behaviour has been so egregious on the 2 occassions that it has occurred that the book should be thrown at her.

In the same breath, Mr. Wertheim is of the view that because Serena is a star of tennis, her behaviour, because it takes place on a show court, on public television is a more serious violation in tennis, than Mike Bryan allegedly hitting an official on an outside court.

The question I have to ask Mr. Wertheim is this, if a woman is assaulted in the dead of night where no one sees what happens and another woman is assaulted in broad daylight, is it not the same assault? What makes one assault more poignant than the other. As far as I am aware the rules of tennis are the same regardless of which court you are on.

Mike Bryan's fine was swept under the carpet by journalists because they did not consider it newsworthy, plus the Bryans have a reputation as good guys. Serena on the other hand has a reputation, ill deserved of being an aggressive, angry player who uses her power to dominate opponents. I have never seen an article written by any journalists that describes the way that Serena plays as anything but dominating, overpowering, savage, brutal, etc. I guess that is one way of sticking to the narrative.


The hindrance rule was put into full effect during this year's USO. There were a number of decisions that invoked the hindrance rule, none of which involved players who shriek, grunt, scream or otherwise release air upon contact with the ball. There were numerous cries of come on, vamos, allez or any other words that players use to pump themselves up during a match. It is important to note that the only time a hindrance rule was called on a come on was during the Stosur/Williams match. I understand that a hindrance call was also made during Bartoli's match. We are not told just what the hindrance was.

The calling of the hindrance rule has renewed calls for the WTA to take action regarding the shrieking, grunting or other exclamations of air that players use during matches. It is instructive that no calls are being made for this rule to go into effect for the men. In case you are not aware of the men who actually do grunt, shriek or otherwise exhale upon contact with the ball, here are their names:-

Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray
Every single Spanish player
Gael Monfils

If you know of any male player who grunts, shrieks or otherwise releases air while playing, please tweet those names to the ITF, journalists, and to anyone who is interested.

There is a concerted attack on women's tennis. I think it is unfair that the cries to silence the women is being met with silence when questions are raised about the men. If tennis is to go silent, then I say in this day and age of equality, silence the men as well.

There are women on the Tour who are powerful. They command millions of dollars in sponsorship dollars. They are affiliated with sporting goods companies that are worth billions. These women need to take to social media and stamp out this unfairness in sports journalism.

Silence everyone. Not just the women

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Today a question was asked and answered. Would Serena Williams be able to win another tournament in her comeback. The answer was an emphatic yes.

Today in the finals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada, 2 of the best servers in women's tennis went toe to toe and the steadier and for me personally, the better of the 2 servers prevailed. Serena Williams showed once again, as Judy Murray pointed out on twitter, Serena is all class.

The match started out like any other with a few tentative moments by both players in holding serve, although Stosur had an easier time of it. She started the match serving at a high of 76% first serve and was looking quite comfortable. Serena on the other hand seemed a bit out of sorts but she maintained her composure and did what she needed to do. There would be no breaks of serve in the first 8 games played, but at 4-4, with Stosur serving, something changed. I will definitely have to watch the repeat on Tennis Channel later tonight. Suffice it to say that Stosur was 2 games point away from holding for a 5-4 lead in the first set. She would fault on her first serve and Serena punished her second serve. 40-30. Stosur would then miss her first serve again. Serena stepped inside the baseline for the second serve and a short rally ensued which Stosur lost. Deuce. It was telling that before Stosur served that second serve, Serena stepped away from the line and turned her back and mumbled to herself. One can only surmise that she was remembering and repeating what coach Venus had told her to do in her match against Stosur.

Serena would go on to break the Stosur serve for a 5-4 lead. She would serve out the set comfortably. In the second set it was all Serena. There was nothing that Stosur could do and the look of bewilderment that usually accompanies Stosur when she is playing maintained its hold over her until 5-1 in the second set when she held serve. She would get her one and only break point in the match on Serena's serve when Serena served for the match, but even that faint spark of hope went away when Williams served an ace that left Stosur hanging.

The joy and celebration on Williams' face was great to see. She played tennis that was out of this world during her semifinal and final and she looked absolutely happy and relaxed during her on-court interview. She says she will be playing Cincinatti where she is slated to meet Stosur in the 2nd round. Word is that Stosur is currently suffering from wrist tendonitis so there is a possibility that she may either rest her wrist for the Open or she may decide to play and who knows maybe get a win and build more confidence going into the Open.

It is really good to see Williams back and playing top level tennis once again. She has been missed and it was really good to watch a women's match where the conversation in the booth was more about the quality of the serving display, rather than who was throwing in the most double faults.

As with all the Majors this year, the women's storyline is much more enticing than the men. As it is we may have another 3 Grand Slam in a season winner on the men's side, while on the women's side there are so many contenders as well as the return of a great champion.

I am looking forward to Cincinatti and coverage of that tournament will be on Tennis Channel tomorrow (Monday). I would think that coverage on ESPN2 may not be before the quarter-finals. Hopefully, they will take the opportunity to share matches with Tennis Channel


Today I learned via twitter that recently retired pro Patty Schynder has not only been left hanging by her husband but apparently she has filed for bankruptcy and has lost everything, including her cat. I am not sure how much of this story is true as it has not been picked up by the English media and the article that I saw posted on twitter was in German. However, if this is indeed true, I hope for Patty's sake that there are many tournaments as well as clubs who would be lining up to offer her employment in order that she can see better days.

This incident with Patty has me thinking about a recent article that someone posted in relation to the players on both Tours needing a Union. I am in agreement with this. I would go even further and say that both Tours should seriously think about starting some type of pension plan that could allow retired players to have a small nest egg upon their retirement from the sport.

Tennis is an exceptionally tough sport and the men and women who play it day in and day out are not only working their bodies to the bone, but their bank accounts as well. Unless you are a top pro, travelling first class and being given large appearance fees by tournament directors, you are basically living hand to mouth. I really think that the Tours should look into having something to aid players who for one reason or another have fallen on hard times.


It started about 6 or 7 years ago and billed itself as the USO Series... The Greatest Road Trip in Sports. It offered millions of dollars in prize money and promised fans that they would get the best in tennis that the ATP and WTA had to offer. It starts in July and ends at the US Open with the winner of the Series getting a chance to double their prize money if they win the Series and win the US Open. Since the start of the Series we have 2 players who have won the Series and won the Open. They are Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Roger Federer in 2009.

One of the worst things about the USO Series is the lack of coverage that fans have to put up with. This is not only true of the Series but really of most tournaments held in the US. What is the use of having a channel that is solely dedicated to tennis when most of the tennis that is occuring is blacked out because a major network (ESPN2) decides when and what time fans should get to see matches and even worse, picks and chooses which matches fans want to watch.

A case in point. Yesterday was semifinal day at the Toronto and Montreal events. Most of us who rely on American television for our tennis were disappointed when a really good match featuring Radwanska and Stosur was not aired anywhere in the US. Fans in Europe and elsewhere were able to see this match. For people like me who tried to watch the match on a livestream, it was extremely frustrating as the stream would die right in the middle of a rally and then commence once the players were at the service line or at the changeover. I checked in on ESPN2 and Tennis Channel and neither channel was broadcasting this match.

However as soon as the Fish v. Tipsaravic semifinal was on ESPN2 was ready to do its broadcast. Because that match finished quite early, we were then treated to the last 3 games in the women's semi played earlier. Later in the day we got the second women's semi featuring Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka and later that night the Djokovic v. Tsonga semifinal.

Today is the start of main draw play from Cincinatti, another combined event. As I am writing this, Tennis Channel is showing a Fed Cup match between Russia and Italy to be followed by a fan's guide to the US Open. Coverage of Cincinatti does not begin until Monday afternoon on Tennis Channel and of course ESPN2 will perhaps not come online until about quarter-final day, at which point all we will get are selected matches featuring only the top players.

Why can it not be a case of ESPN2 and Tennis Channel sharing the coverage of these combined events. It could be that one could do the men and another network the women, or they could share which matches they cover. If ESPN2 wants only the marquee players, Tennis Channel could, of course, take those matches that feature lesser known players, but who have reached the quarter-final of these events.

We saw earlier this year at Wimbledon when only matches featuring marquee players were featured on tv. Turns out that it was a player that was hardly featured on either ESPN2 or Tennis Channel who ended up winning the Ladies Singles title.

I cannot imagine why Tennis Channel makes such a hue and cry about getting equal access to cable providers in the US. It could be said that it is a chicken and egg situation. If we had more markets, we would make more money and therefore able to carry more live events, or if we covered more events, we would be able to say that we have a wider audience clamouring for our channel and therefore deserve to be treated on par with Golf Channel etc.

I don't know what the solution is to this problem, but it cannot be that every time tennis gets to the US, the visibility of the sport dies a natural death.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


In recent times there have been much ado about the fact that many big tournaments are now combined events. This means that events which feature both men's and women's events and which would be held in back to back weeks, they are now incorporating these events and they are held in the same week.

The Canadian Open, aka The Rogers Cup is now a combined event. They have made this happen by holding the men's event in Montreal as well as the women's event in Toronto taking place at the same time. As with all combined events, the women's event usually gets shafted in favour of the men.

Thanks to Eurosport I have been able to enjoy some of the women's matches, but for the matches which are played in the evenings, the women's event gets shafted in favour of the man of the moment who may be playing.

Last night was a case in point. If not for the rain delay which was happening in Montreal, most of us would never have seen Sharapova's match against Jovanovski and forget about seeing Azarenka against Dubois. Livestreaming was your friend last night in order to even see that particular match.

The disappointment in the voices of the commentators was palpable when they had to keep announcing a rain delay happening in Montreal.

I have no idea whose bright idea this was to have 2 simultaneous large events, happening in the same country and expect that both tournaments would garner the same level of enthusiasm amongst fans.

Even worse, if it was not bad enough that the women get short shrift in terms of television coverage even when they are on their own, how is it possible that they would get equal coverage when the so-called "big names" of men's tennis are playing at the same time.

Next week there is another combined event in Cincinatti and again I am not optimistic that the women will get equal coverage at this particular event.

While most of us who are tennis fans realise that the economy is in a downward spiral and that there is not much money in the pockets of fans to attend tennis tournaments, the fact remains that the product that the women produce is equal to or even surpasses that of the men. The accomplishments of the top women are on equal footing as that of the men. However, you cannot tell this when you have combined events as not only does the coverage for the men's events overshadow that of the women, but the voices of those in the booth lends credence to the fact that the women's tour is weak.

Take for instance what has been happening in both tournaments. During the first few days both tournaments lost top ranked players. The men losing the No. 4 and No. 2 seeds, while the women have lost the No. 1 and No. 2 seed. The narrative that has been written is that the No. 4 seed was having a post Wimbledon lull while the No. 2 ranked player was having issues with his foot, his opponent played out of his mind and he had a cold. The narrative written by the loss of the top seeds on the women's side went something like this: weak No. 1 who could not handle the conditions or her opponent and for the NO. 2 seed - this may well spell her retirement. There were also talks about the depth in men's tennis but for the women it was about a bunch of head cases who cannot string 2 points together.

Commentators, both those in print and electronic have consistently berated the women's game. They find nothing exciting about the new crop of players and they spend most of their time writing about the screaming, grunting and otherwise peripheral things of women's tennis, while on the men's side the narrative is always about how tough and focused certain players are and the diversity at the top of men's tennis.

On tap at today's events, there are 14 matches scheduled that fans will be able to watch. Of those 14, 4 of them are women. They have even scheduled a doubles match with the men for viewing.

It would be good if at some point the narrative changed, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

This is today's Order of Play

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Caroline Wozniacki is the current resident of the WTA Penthouse. She has occupied this apartment since the latter part of 2010 when she overtook Serena Williams, who was out injured from mid-2010 and who has been out for most of the 2011 season with various ailments.

Recently, Wozniacki has come under attack, subtly by the media and more vigorously from tennis fans. I am here to defend not only Wozniacki, but the WTA as well.

Unless you were a hardcore tennis head and a true fan of women’s tennis, Wozniacki’s arrival on the tennis scene was not a surprise. The first time I saw her play was in 2006. At that time she was playing a small tournament alongside what was then the Tennis Channel Open or Las Vegas Open. She played a Japanese player, a veteran of the women’s tour and she won the match quite handily. Most people who followed junior tennis, already knew about Wozniacki and her penchant for blowing up on court, so we all knew that she had fight and that she was as tough as nails.

Wozniacki Overachieved

In 2009 when Clijsters returned to the women’s tour, all the talk was about her return and what it would mean for women’s tennis. Commentators and the media were in a frenzy. Meanwhile, players like Wozniacki who had been carrying the Tour since Clijsters’ break were barely given the time of day. Until Wozniacki beat Oudin in the quarters of the US Open, I doubt if many in the commentary box even knew who she was. Comparisons were made to Hingis, Jankovic and other players who are known for their defense, rather than their offensive games. On her way to her first and only major, Wozniacki did not take down any ‘big’ name players. She played steady, made few unforced errors and even fewer winners and the holes in her game were so big that you could shoot an elephant through it, but despite all that, Woznaicki gave Clijsters a very good match, even though she lost. In 2009, Wozniacki ended the season ranked No. 4, from being ranked in the top 20. She would end the season with 3 titles and 67 match wins. The talk then was that she would lose to players who were either ranked No. 1 or who were formerly ranked No. 1. This list would include Safina, Jankovic, Ivanovic, both Williams Sisters, Sharapova, and Clijsters.

In 2010 Wozniacki went on a tear, posting some of the most incredible numbers that the women’s tour had ever seen. She would end the season ranked No. 1 and 6 titles and posting a 62 match win streak.

Since 2011, Wozniacki has won 4 titles and reached the semis of the Australian Open. Why then is she getting so much schtick from commentators and fans alike? Grand Slams.

Grand Slams are the pinnacle of our sport. Most players will tell you that their dream is to win Wimbledon or some other of the Grand Slams. Wozniacki has never said that this was her goal. Her goal has always been to win titles and be the No. 1 player in the world. However, as a top ranked player and the leader of her Tour she should try to win one, but if she does not, does that make her not worthy of occupying the top spot.

Many fans say that Wozniacki just plays a lot of tournaments and that is why she occupies the penthouse. I disagree. They are of the view that the women should have a ranking system similar or tournaments based on what the men have. They do.

The WTA Tour has 8 Premier Mandatory tournaments. The men’s tour has a similar or greater number. Within those Premier Mandatory tournaments, there are also tournaments called Premier events. These tournaments are scattered throughout the season and while they are not mandatory, they go a far way in building ranking points for players. In addition to the Premier tournaments, there are also International events, which are similar in stature to the men’s 500 or 250s. They are not mandatory, but players can get a hit on their rankings or loss in prize money if they don’t at least play some of these International events. As the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Wozniacki has a responsibility not only to the WTA Tour, but also to herself. Tennis is her career. She plays tournaments to earn money and ranking points. Every season not only does she have to defend those ranking points in order to keep herself in the penthouse, but she also has to make sure that she stays ahead of the competition.

Wozniacki’s career is compared to that of Serena. Serena, even while she was No. 1 made the decision that rather than playing tournaments day in and day out, she would save her energy for the biggest stage, i.e. the Grand Slams. Critics of Serena often say well if she played a full schedule then perhaps she would not perform so well in the Slams. On the other hand you have players like Wozniacki who dedicate themselves to the day in and day out grind of the Tour. Not only does Woznaicki have to be the face of the Tour, she is also its chief spokesperson, sits on the Player’s Council and is a brand ambassador for Adidas. As Roger Federer, former No. 1 on the men’s tour will tell you, being No. 1 not only means occupying the penthouse, it also means a level of responsibility that is thrust upon one’s shoulder.

For years Nadal was a chasing player and you heard no complaints from him in relation to the grind of the tour. As soon as he got to No. 1 and had to defend that position, he started to complain. Credit to Woznaicki, but I am yet to read a quote of hers in which she has even expressed any notion that the season is too long or that it is an arduous task to commit to so many tournaments, or indeed to show up for the Premier Mandatories, unlike say Kim Clijsters who recently remarked that the Mandatory tournaments are a pain in the you know what and she preferred when she was not a top 10 player as she would not have to commit to those events.

It was not too long ago when there were critics of Clijsters for holding the No. 1 ranking without winning a Major. At that time her defenders stated that she was consistent and that she was nice and she was a great ambassador for the sport, especially with the Williams Sisters being MIA. Clijsters also defended her position as No.1. Now, her utterances, are for the most part about finding balance in her life and not playing a heavy schedule and winning Grand Slams, which at that time, did not seem to be a major flaw in her number of titles.

Does Wozniacki play too many tournaments? Some would say yes, and I would agree. It is ridiculous that she continues to play tournaments in the lead up to the Majors and then crash and burn at the first sign of a struggle.

It is unfortunate for Wozniacki that as talented as she is, she is playing in an era where there have been so many dominant champions who are still wielding a racquet and whose game has transformed the sport for all time. It does not help that one of her peers has finally been able to break through the pack and win herself a Major, while Wozniacki is still sitting in the penthouse surrounded by lesser titles.

I do believe that Wozniacki’s time will come. I don’t believe the criticism of her occupying the No. 1 spot is justified. She has earned her spot in the rankings. She does not need a Major to justify that position. She needs a Major to show the tennis world and herself that she is able to win the biggest tournaments. With her game as it is now and her schedule as jam packed as it is, I am not optimistic that this will happen, but for what it is worth, Wozniacki is a worthy No. 1 and a fit and proper person to lead the women’s tour based on her performance on the Tour.

Monday, August 1, 2011


In 2009 during Wimbledon, a young, blonde American player was playing someone who earlier in the year was a former No. 1 ranked player in the world, Jelena Jankovic. On an outside court, watched by hundreds of fans, the young upstart beat Jankovic, who informed everyone who would listen that she was having her monthly cycle and that was the reason for her loss.

Later that summer during the US Open, little known Melanie Oudin, standing all of 5 ft nothing proceeded to take down some of the biggest names in tennis. The biggest name was Maria Sharapova who she beat in a highly contested 3 set match on Arthur Ashe stadium. She had the whole of America rooting her on to win the title and for a moment after she lost to Caroline Wozniacki, the announcers in the booth implied that she was the last American standing. The then No. 1 ranked player in the world and the defending champion, an American, Serena Williams was still in the tournament. This is not about Serena however, but about Oudin.

Prior to her amazing summer run, Oudin had been a standout in Fed Cup competition. She had fire running through her veins and while most of us who are ardent tennis watchers saw gaping holes in her game, the announcers were so happy to at least have someone blonde and blue eyed playing for the Stars and Stripes that it did not matter that Oudin did not have a serve worth anything and that her forehand and backhand were rudimentary to say the least.

It has been 2 long seasons since that amazing run by Oudin. She was ranked in the top 30 and the sky was the limit. Today in San Diego she got handled by Elena Baltacha 0 and 1. Of the 72 points played, Oudin won 28% of the points played. In the first set, of the 35 points played, she only won 29% of the points. In today’s match she served at 68% first serve but only won 46% of her first deliveries and only won 19% on her second serve.

In today’s game of power tennis you live and die by your serve. No matter how fierce a competitor you are, you have to be able to hold your serve as much as your nerve in order to compete and Oudin’s serve, no matter how high a percentage she is getting, is just not getting it done.

I am sure that her coach and the team around her at Wilson (she is no longer with Adidas) are striving to ensure that she gets a little bit more pop on her serve, as well as add some offense to her game. It can be done. We only need to look at Justine Henin, one of the smallest players who ever played this game and look at the results that she has had against players who were bigger and stronger than she was. Granted Henin had more talent than Oudin, but even closer to home, we look at Dominika Cibulkova. Cibulkova, 5 years ago was known more for her defensive play, rather than offense. These days, Cibulkova stands on top of the baseline and belts the ball as if she is 6 ft tall.

The last time I saw Oudin play was during Fed Cup last year. Once she serves, instead of standing on top of the baseline, she back pedals to the back of the court to start the rally. She does not do this because she is a defensive player, she does this because her serve is so weak that it gives her opponents time to start dictating from the first ball. Because Oudin is aware of this, she immediately goes on the defence.

What to do

You have to think that the members of the USTA have been trying to help with her development. The first thing she needs to work on is her fitness. She has started to carry a little bit of weight around her mid-section and for an elite athlete, this has got to go. In addition, she needs to work on her game. She needs to add more offense. She needs to learn how to dictate.

However, all the offense in the world cannot help Oudin if she no longer believes. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that her previous clothing sponsor, Adidas has dropped her after her results started falling away. She is currently ranked outside the top 100 (111) and no doubt she will be granted copious amounts of wild cards during the USO Series in order for her to compete.

Looking at Oudin’s stats page on the WTA website, her results are littered with bagel sets. This usually shows that the belief which was a major part of her game 2 years ago has completely disappeared.

I am aware that Oudin has been playing Challenger events in order to rebuild her confidence, but that does not seem to have worked as she has lost in those events as well. With this loss in San Diego her ranking and confidence will continue to plummet. At this time my suggestion would be that a strong dose of reality should enter into the picture. The first would be to rid herself of her current coach. It is interesting that there are calls from the pulpit for Wozniacki to ditch her father as coach. Her father has taken her to the No. 1 ranking, a Grand Slam final and semi and while there is much room for improvement, or indeed for another voice in Ms. Wozniacki’s ear, it is interesting that there are no calls for Oudin to get herself a new coach. It could be that the relationship between Oudin’s mother and her coach is one that requires Oudin to not shake the tree too much, but you would think that her mother’s first instinct would be to try and have her daughter get the best possible help for her chose career.

I am no big fan of Oudin, but it is disheartening to see a player with so much fight become relegated to so much fodder for other players to just have their way. I am hopeful that her game will rise again.

I am not sure if it is possible, but perhaps Oudin could consider going back to college and hone her game or taking some time away from the pro tour and rebuild her game on the challenger or futures circuit. She has to do something because another loss similar to the one she suffered today may just put the end to an otherwise bright career.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Everyone has been doing their Parting Shots from Wimbledon. I think I should clear out my notebook as well.

1. Congratulations to Petra Kvitova, Wimbledon Ladies singles champion for 2011. Awesome performance and well deserved.

2. Congratulations to Maria Sharapova for making it to the finals of another Grand Slam and showing the world what hard work and dedication can do for you.

3. Another Major and another loss to Caroline Wozniacki. However, she is still the World’s No. 1 but you have to think that there is some pressure on her to perform.

4. How dismal a performance from former Grand Slam champion Ana Ivanovic. Her many fans must be disappointed that after a wonderful fall season her results in 2011 have not kept pace. One can only hope that with the recent announcement of Nigel Sears, former head of women’s development at the LTA as her new coach,things will start looking up for her. However, I don’t think the problem lies in Ana’s coaching. It lies elsewhere in my honest opinion and the sooner she recognizes that, the better.

5. Screaming, grunting, shrieking etc seemed to have taken up a lot of time with media practitioners during the Wimbledon fortnight. It is unfortunate because the tennis being played by the women was wonderful.

6. Congratulations to Victoria Azarenka for finally getting over the quarter-final hump and making her first Grand Slam semifinal. Fans of Azarenka can only hope that she moves forward with this improvement. Her performance was one that will fill her fans with great hope for her future.

7. Seeing Serena Williams break down and cry after her first round win at Wimbledon was heartwarming and showed fans of women’s tennis just what this game means to Serena.

8. Another disappointing dismissal by the Queen of the Green, Venus Williams by what can only be called her nemesis Pironkova. As a big fan of Venus myself, I was very disappointed and I can only hope that she will at some point return to the winners circle at what is without a doubt her favourite tournament.

9. Marion Bartoli showed that her win in Eastbourne was not a fluke, neither was her reaching the semis of the French Open. Bartoli has put in the hard work and it has paid off handsomely. I hope that she does not overplay during the US hard court series and makes a run at the US Open.

10. It was good to see Sabine Lisicki not only enter the winner’s circle with her win at Birmingham but also seeing her make the semis of Wimbledon. Her performance was a tad disappointing. Her first serve which is one of the biggest weapons in her arsenal was nowhere in sight against Sharapova and her forehand which is one of the biggest on Tour was nowhere in sight. Hopefully she will improve as the rest of the season progresses and can continue to remain healthy.

11. Julia Georges showed once again that it is not always good to bet on a streaky horse. Her performance against Cibulkova was not only disappointing but was underwhelming to say the least.

12. Dominika Cibulkova is a giant killer. After taking out Julia Georges in the third round, she went toe to toe with the World’s No. 1 Wozniacki and took her out in 3 tough sets. She would later fold against Sharapova, but give her a bigger serve and a better backhand and she should be able to collect her first singles title sometime this season.

13. Last year’s beaten finalist, Vera Zvonreva struggled for much of Wimbledon. She was taken out in the third round by Pironkova in straight sets. Zvonreva seems to be regressing these days and that is quite unfortunate.

14. Kim Clijsters was a no-show at Wimbledon this year and one can only guess that her time on Tour is drawing to a close.

15. Sam Stosur disappointed as per usual.

16. Jelena Jankovic left Wimbledon with nary a whimper. I doubt if she even gave a press conference following her first round loss. One only has to wonder whether Jankovic is even interested in playing tennis any more. The Tour needs players like Jankovic to spice things up a little.

17. One of the many things that went wrong during this year’s coverage of the women’s portion of Wimbledon has to be the fact that none of Petra Kvitova’s matches were shown on tv. I know that I saw quite a few of her matches as I had access to live streams but from speaking to many of my tennis buddies that reside in the States and elsewhere we could not recall seeing any of Petra’s matches on tv. Perhaps it is time that the networks start doing a highlight show where they focus on players who have played on the outer courts so that in the event that they win at least they will have some footage of them to show.

18. I enjoyed watching the juniors at Wimbledon this year as live video streaming of the girls’ finals was broadcast. Ashleigh Barty is without a doubt a mental giant. Being 4-0 down in the first set she would go on to win the set and eventually the title. It was also good to see Justine Henin in the stands supporting the player from her Sixth Sense Academy, Irina Khromacheva. It was quite funny that the commentators on the live stream did not know who she was and kept confusing her with Nicole Pratt. How that could ever happen I will never know, which leads me to my next item…

19. I think it is time that commentators get lessons in how to pronounce players’ name. Julia Georges had to rebuke the umpire during one of her matches recently in no uncertain terms as to how to pronounce her name. Commentators are guilty of this as well and should be made to answer for their destruction of players’ names.

20. Some players really need to start focusing on the tennis and not on the outside interests. Not too long ago Chris Evert wrote a letter to Serena Williams informing her that she could always have a fashion and acting career, but that she would never have another tennis career. I think a letter should be sent to Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Andrea Petkovic. Less time tweeting, writing blogs, designing ugly outfits and making up new dances and more time on the tennis court trying to win tennis matches. Bethanie Mattek-Sands is now the No. 1 ranked American woman. She has never won a singles title and is best known for wearing knee-high socks and outrageous ugly outfits and eye black on court. Andrea Petkovic is not doing much better. She is best known for making up dances that she does when she wins matches against opponents. Rather than the media calling out players for grunting, how about calling out Petkovic for her unsportsmanlike conduct, plus she cannot dance.

21. The loss by the world’s No. 1 was compounded by the fact that her loss did not rate a mention on ESPN’s website. As a tennis buddy of mine tweeted at the time the font type used to describe her loss was smaller than that used to describe the loss by Venus and Serena Williams, who also lost on the same day. The world’s No.1 should not be an afterthought. Think I am wrong, people are still talking about the World’s No. 3 loss on the men's side long after the tournament has ended. The WTA has a serious problem on its hands when the world’s media cares little about whether Wpzniacki has lost in a Major or not.

22. Kimiko Date Krumm proving more and more that age is nothing but a number.

23. Billie Jean King said “pressure is a privilege”. Na Li, winner of the French Open found that out when serving for the match not once, but twice against Sabine Lisicki. She was ousted in the second round.

24. The revival of Tamira Paszek. Once a child prodigy and former top ranked junior, Paszek turned up at Wimbledon fitter than I have seen her in years and made it all the way to the quarter-final before losing to Victoria Azarenka. She played one of the best matches I have ever seen her play in taking out Francesca Schiavone in the round of 16.

25. Svetlana Kuznetsova after playing fantastic tennis in the early rounds bowed out in the third round playing really sloppy tennis. One wonders if Sveta will ever return to the top 10, which leads to the following question …


Of the current members of the top 10 or even top 20 who have not won a major I tried to see who would have the potential to win a Major. Unfortunately, apart from Wozniacki and Azarenka there are no other players who have not won a Major who even have the potential to win one. It is dispiriting for women’s tennis that with the veterans winding down or reducing their schedules due to injury, the new guard in women’s tennis has not shown that it has been able to step up and challenge on the big stages. I am sure that the WTA must be scratching its head in frustration at the fact that there is hardly anyone coming up through the ranks who is able to dominate the Tour and for whom fans can identify in the coming years.

Petra Kvitova’s win is without a doubt the shot in the arm that the WTA needs and indeed its younger generation needs to give them the impetus to start doing much better at the majors.


1. Kimiko Date-Krumm v. Venus Williams. A match about using every single angle of the court and relying on your strengths and finding your game when you left it in the locker room.

2. Petra Kvitova v. Yanina Wickmayer. A match about staying focused and just marking the Xs and Os.

3. Marion Bartoli v. Serena Williams. A match about believing in your game and executing it.

4. Francesca Schiavone v. Tamira Paszek. The fight of a veteran and the never say die attitude of a youngster.

5. Daniela Hantuchova v. Victoria Azarenka. What happens when there is a struggle.

6. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez v. Venus Williams. Grass court tennis at its best

7. Sabine Lisicki v. Na Li. What happens when you believe.

8. Marion Bartoli v. Flavia Pennetta. Getting it done

9. Caroline Wozniacki v. Dominika Cibulkova. A giant sized forehand contained in a pint sized body.

10. Ashleigh Barty v. Irina Khromacheva. The new generation.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Where to begin. Manic Mondays or that should Mundane Mondays or Muck-Up Mondays. That is the way I am feeling right now after the events at Wimbledon today. Today, 2 of the biggest stars that women's tennis have ever witnessed were sent packing from the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon. It is ironic that they were sent packing by 2 players who have between them 4 WTA titles and 1 appearance in a Grand Slam.

Pironkova, she of the forehand slice, deceptively accurate serve and lethal backhand showed that her win against Venus Williams in the quarter finals of the Championships in 2010 was not a fluke. Having gone 6-15 for this season, Pironkova turned up at the Championships, apparently to defend the points (which according to her she had no idea that points were awarded for going far in tournaments) turned up a deadly performance in ousting the 5 time Wimbledon titlist and WTA Tour veteran, 6-2, 6-3 in what can only be called a command performance.

Earlier that day, Venus' little Sister, defending champion and 13 time Grand Slammer, Serena Williams was also ousted from the Championships by Marion Bartoli. Fans of women's tennis will remember that Bartoli was the player who sent Justine Henin packing in the semifinal of Wimbledon in 2007. Today, she backed up the potential she showed by staying strong and serving lights out to take out the defending champion. Serena however showed why she is indeed the toughest woman in tennis as it took Bartoli 5 match points before she could finally put away Serena Williams.

Fans of Caroline Wozniacki will have to wait until the US Open for the World's No. 1 to win a Major as she was ousted today in three tough sets by Cibulkova. Cibulkova hit winners from every side of the court but especially from her forehand side. She made the world's No. 1 look pedestrian in her victory today. Cibulkova has now taken out 2 of the biggest contenders for this title and she will now face the woman that many have picked to win these Championships, Maria Sharapova.

The others left in the tournament are Petra Kvitova, Tamera Paszek, Victoria Azarenka, Wild Card Sabine Lisicki and Marion Bartoli. It will be a very interesting quarter final from the ladies and we may very well have a very new Grand Slam champion on the women's tour.

Today's round of 16 losses by both Williams Sisters marks the first time that either woman has lost in this round at Wimbledon. The loss does not seem to have affected Serena in the same way that it seems to have affected Venus. In her post match presser Serena seemed almost defiant in her loss as she said that she can only get better and actually threw down a challenge that the rest of the women's tour should watch out. Venus on the other hand, while sounding stoic in her loss, seemed quite bemused that she could not find a way to get past Pironkova today.

She indicated in her presser that she does not know why she cannot seem to play her best against Pironkova. As I sit here and write this, I am watching the match on mute and I can tell Venus the reason why she does not play her best against Pironkova. Pironkova believes. She has no doubt in her mind that she can beat Venus. Venus, on the other hand knows that Pironkova can beat her and as a result she is not able to play without fear.

I remember years ago when Venus first came on Tour every woman on Tour did not like to play against her. She was as tough as they came. She had to fight tooth and nail for all that she has attained. From media critics about her game, to the anti-Williams sentiment that permeated the Tour at that time. Every player even her fellow Americans did not know what to make of her and her sister, and indeed the rest of the Williams Family. I strongly believe that as a result of having to stay strong during those tough moments early in their careers, Venus and to a lesser extent Serena, became extremely tough and competitive opponents.

Today, after achieving so much, maybe the desire to prove themselves is no longer relevant. Maybe, the fact that they are now acknowledged as being great players in their own right and maybe as a result of their accomplishments both on and off the court, the fire to compete is no longer there. I don't know but the Venus from even 2005, the Venus who stared down match points on so many occassions, the Venus who would look across the net at her opponent and tuck her weave behind her ears and adjust her Diane von Furstenburg dress was nowhere in sight today.

Today, I saw a woman who gave up and that is not my Venus.

I am hoping that with more match play, less injuries and that bravado that she has where she has ruled SW19 for so many years will return. I know that many of her fans would like to see that again.

On another more humours note, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, winner of zero WTA singles titles, black eye-liner, and who spends more time on her bizarre outfits and who never even made it past the first round is now the top female American player. Even more humourous, Melanie Oudin, she of the "I cannot win a first round match to save my life" is now ranked ahead of Serena Williams.

Take a drink folks, the ride is only going to get better.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Wimbledon. Grass court tennis. The Williams Sisters. The lawns. Rain delays. The roof. All of these signify the return of my favourite time of the year. I love grass court tennis and I love Wimbledon. However, there are days when I do hate Wimbledon. I do hate their out-dated scheduling polices and I do hate that the All England Club continues to pander to the least common denominator in joining those who continue to condemn the women game. I also condemn the professional women of tennis who continue to suck up the type of behaviour that is constantly being meted out to the women's tour.

Since the commencement of the tournament the standard policy of scheduling one women's match on Centre Court, along with 2 men's matches continues. However, the schedule for tomorrow, Thursday 23 June is what has me really upset. Serena Williams, she of the 13 Grand Slam titles, the 2 time defending champion has been shifted to Court No. 2. I don't care what anyone says. Court No. 2 has been given the name the "Graveyard of Champions" for so long that most fans of tennis will tell you that they hate to see their favourites scheduled for that particular court. The AEC has informed us that the old Graveyard Court has been demolished and this is a new and shinier version of the Graveyard Court. In that case, why not schedule the men's matches for that particular court?

In what universe is Robin Soderling, a 2 time loser at Grand Slam finals, where he never even won a set, and Lleyton Hewitt, albeit a former champion at Wimbledon (so long ago that most fans don't even remember) command Centre Court on Thursday's schedule and Serena Williams gets to go on an outside court. Even worse, how is it that Sharapova, she who has not been to the final of a Grand Slam for going on 3 years, and who has not won at Wimbledon since 2004 gets to play on the Court No. 1 and Serena gets Court No.?

I can understand Na Li playing on Centre Court. After all she is a newly minted Grand Slam champion and one of those who the experts have picked to make it far, or even win this tournament, but again, I ask, why is the 2 time defending champion and the woman who has made the finals 3 years running, playing on Court NO. 2 and not on a main show court?

Interview Transcripts

I am happy that the AEC has saw it fit to prove interview transcripts on their website and not follow the lead of the French Federation in bowing to the journalists' association in putting a 24 hour hold on these transcripts. I have been reading through the transcripts and I have always asked myself the question, what if you were a journalist and had the opportunity to interview some of today's big name players, what questions would you ask. I have made up a list of questions and I am hopeful that some enterprising blogger or journalist who reads this little blog could perhaps ask one of our top ladies any of the following questions:-

As a top player, do you believe that the WTA Tour is doing all that it can in promoting women's tennis?

Do you believe that in this age of equality that the AEC should dispense with its credo of placing 2 men's matches on the main show courts and relegating the women, despite their records and pedigrees, to the outside courts?

Do you think that the constant criticism of the women's tour in relation to the issue of grunting is an issue that could become detrimental to the women's tour, and if so, what do you think the Tour and players could or should do to address this issue?

Do you think that the Players Council should address this issue publicly? If not, why not?

With not so many teenagers coming up through the ranks, do you think the WTA should lower the eligibility requirements, and if so, to what age?

Do you think in order to promote the women's game more it would be better if the WTA started its own commercial television station and start partnering with the various tour stops in an effort to fully promote the sport?

If you were given the job of CEO of the Tour, what if any changes would you implement in order to benefit the women's game?

Do you believe that on court coaching has had a negative or positive impact on the younger players? If so, why and if not, why?

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Just typing that name tells me that my favourite time of the tennis season is here.

I have nothing against clay court and hard court tennis, but there is just something so tranquil and spectacular about seeing players dressed all in white, playing against the beautiful backdrop of green grass. This year, 2011 the grass will be especially green as England has been an enjoying a really spectacular summer with lots of rain, interspersed with lots of sunshine. As is the norm during this time of the year, we have seen lots of rain delays and/or matches having to be rescheduled to the next day, but for tennis fans like myself, we don’t care. We know that while this season is short, the gold at the end of the rainbow is the crown jewel in our tennis world. To be crowned a Wimbledon champion.

I was talking to one of my tennis buddies and we started to talk about who we thought had a chance at winning this tournament on the women’s side. There were a lot of potentials thrown out there. We had, of course, Sharapova who won Wimbledon in 2004. We had Petra Kvitova, who made the semis last year. We had Azarenka, perennial quarter-finalist at the Majors, who lost last year in the third round to Petra Kvitova. We also spoke about Vera Zvonreva, even though we were not optimistic that she would repeat her efforts from last year. Too many changes in her camp since that Wimbledon run. How about Clijsters, she of the 4 Major titles, but who seems to want to spend more time with her husband and child, rather than playing the regular Tour? I seem to recall that when Clijsters made her exit from the sport in 2007, she spent quite a bit of time telling everyone who would listen how she was more prepared to just sit at home with her dogs and count her beads, rather than being on Tour. Seems to me like since coming back, Ms. Clijsters has now reverted to type.

My tennis buddy and I also spoke about Marion Bartoli. Bartoli was a finalist in 2007 where she lots to Venus Williams, she of the 5 Wimbledon crowns and without a doubt the best grass court player of her generation. However, there is the matter of that other Williams sister, Serena Williams.

Now here is where our conversation took a different turn. You will note that nowhere in this conversation did we speak about the current World’s No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki has not done well in the Majors since making the final of the USO in 2009. However, it was not about Wozniacki’s lack of performance at a Major that brought about a discussion. It was the seedings.
My friend took the opportunity to visit the Wimbledon website to get an idea of what the criteria was for seedings. Turns out that the way the seeding is done by the Wimbledon organizers for the men is totally different than how it is done for the women.

For the men the Committee that oversees the Championships uses 75% of their best results in the past year and 100% of their results from the year before to determine their seedings. For the women, the same criteria is in place, except that the Committee has the right to use its discretion in order to establish a fair and balanced draw.

The seedings for the men will, in my view, be fairly straightforward. It is the women however who will generate the most headlines when the seedings are announced.

If the Wimbledon Committee uses the seeding criteria, we could see, Serena Williams, who has not played a tournament since winning Wimbledon in 2010 be the No. 1 seed. How, you ask could that possibly happen, having regard to the fact that Serena has not played a tournament since Wimbledon 2010 (she is scheduled to play Pironkova in Eastbourne on Monday 13 June)? Well that would happen because of Serena’s performance at Wimbledon over the past 2 years.

Many of you will recall that Serena made the final in 2008 where she lost to her sister, Venus Williams. In 2009, she returned and won the title, beating her sister in the final. In 2010, she returned to the final again, beating Vera Zvonreva for the title. As can be seen, since 2008, there has not been a player more dominant on this surface than Serena Williams. If the organizers of the Championships decide to, they could, in all fairness seed Serena Williams, holder of 13 Grand Slam titles at No. 1. This should make all the other women on Tour breathe a sigh of relief, because let’s face it, no one wants to meet her in the first round of a major, if she is seeded at her current ranking, which is currently in the low 20s.

One of the things that will make these Championships so enjoyable once again on the women’s side will be the same thing that happened at Roland Garros a few weeks ago. The unpredictability of who will come out of the women’s side holding up the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Just as we had no idea who would be holding up the Suzanne Lenglen trophy on the women’s side at Roland Garros, so we do not know and that is what makes the anticipation so much better.

The Wimbledon Seed Report will be on 15 June. Qualifying rounds start on Monday 13 June.

Get ready for the Grass Court Ride of your Life

Monday, May 16, 2011


Remember when Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic posed in their skimpy swimsuits?

Recently, Serena Williams did this (via

When I checked my Blackberry today and saw my timeline blow up about Serena, I was wondering what was the problem. Lo and behold I finally got a chance to see what was causing all the journalists to come out in high dudgeon against Ms. Williams. Lo and behold, it was because she chose to change her twitter Avatar with the picture cited above.

I have to say that I am a bit stunned at the reaction of tennis journos, and especially that paragon of tennis journalism, Greg Couch. Mr. Couch states that “Still, Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic photos are never quite as gritty as Serena’s”. Hum, maybe they are not as gritty as Serena, simply because despite what advertisers and others would have us think you are either born with it, or you have it bestowed upon you. In Ms. Williams’ case, put her in sack cloth and ashes and she would still make Sharapova, Ivanovic and Kournikova look ordinary.

However, that is not the reason for this post. This post is about the hypocrisy that pervades throughout tennis journalism, and no where is it more evident but in the way how women’s tennis is covered and the way in which the women’s game is portrayed by journalists.

Separate and apart from the righteous indignation of Couch who would have us think that he is only defending Serena’s honour in thinking that for someone who has been the victim of a stalker (and he had the gall to cite Erin Andrews, but more anon), but how dare she post a picture that conjures up so much meaning and putting it out there for another stalker, or the same one, to think that he was invited to do it once again. How dare Serena Williams actually try and be a woman. A person. An individual. How dare she?

If I was 10% convinced that Mr. Couch’s heart was in the right place, I would ask him to get into high dudgeon at the way the media has chosen to deal with women’s tennis since this 2011 tennis season has commenced:-

1. There have been 4 Premier Mandatory tournaments played since the tennis season began. Of these 4 Premier Mandatory tournaments, the women’s portion of those events have only been airing since the quarter-finals. Tennis Channel, ESPN and the other networks that broadcast tennis do not believe that women’s tennis is worthy of being watched by millions of viewers and so the women are hardly shown and when they are shown, we are given highlights or interrupted play. I do not recall Couch and many other journalists bemoaning that fact.
2. When Todd Woodbridge chose to comment to Rennae Stubbs via text message that the possible reason for Kim Clijsters looking so grumpy and her breasts looking full must mean that she is once again pregnant. Correct me if I am wrong folks, but I do not recall anyone defending the invasion of Clijsters’ privacy with such a disgusting remark. I think most women would agree with me that if you had to get up and look at Mr. Couch’s face every day, and indeed listen to some of the male commentators on tv, you would perhaps be grumpy as well.
3. How about the constant belittling of professional women by referring to them as girls? If there is anything more demeaning to listen to is having grown ass men referring to women who could buy them 10 times over as girls. I will keel over and die the next time I hear commentators refer to the likes of Federer and Nadal as boys.
The cries of indignation by people like Couch infers and/or implies that because Serena was the victim of a stalker she should not have posted such a suggestive picture of herself. I guess that means that women who get raped while on dates should never ever go out on another date. Or how about women who get attacked viciously while going about their normal business? According to Mr. Couch, they must be asking for it, or indeed, they should change their lifestyle to minimize the chance of them being attacked. Are you serious Mr. Couch? He seems to think that Serena posting a picture of herself is an invitation to the lunatics, like the one who stalked her, and therefore, Serena, a free adult should be bound by fear, according to Mr. Couch, and not post pictures of herself, no matter that this is a free society, because the likes of the stalker who was recently hauled before the Florida Courts could be tempted to do this again.

As someone who has been a victim of personal crime, I find it insensitive and downright obnoxious that someone like Mr. Couch could ever deem to hold himself out as a moral authority as to women’s rights. Mr. Couch has used his position as a journalist to besmirch and downright call down fire and brimstone on the head of the Williams family, and Serena Williams in particular. Mr. Couch has absolutely no moral authority, imagined or otherwise, to even call Serena Williams to account.

It would have been good if Mr. Couch was sincere in his chastising of Ms. Williams, but his previous rants against Ms. Williams and indeed her whole family, the most recent of which was his abominable rants that Ms. Williams, knowing that she could not play an exhibition event for Nike, implied, inferred and colluded with Nike to have her name on a billboard promoting said Nike event. The fact that Ms. Williams was then diagnosed as suffering a pulmonary embolism, had to be rushed to the hospital for a subsequent hematoma, as a result of a cut on her foot, which to this day, Mr. Couch, and others of his like thinks is a figment of Ms. Williams’ imagination, notwithstanding his stance and others like him that Ms. Williams was not in fact injured, but was saving herself for the majors. I am yet to hear any apology from any of those members of the media who called into question, Serena’s continued absence from the Tour.

Therefore, it strikes me as a bit rich, that Mr. Couch of all people should be coming out and purportedly chastising Ms. Williams for putting herself in danger, seeing as she had been the victim of a stalker. You cannot have it both ways. It is either Ms. Williams is a lying, cheating hypocritical heifer who makes up injuries in order that tournaments can sell tickets, or she is injured, or she is the victim of a stalker, or is it that Ms. Williams, like most women, needs a man to look after their interest, because she is incapable of doing so herself.

Mr. Couch is of the view that Serena’s personality and character are big for women’s tennis. He believes that people like Schiavone (a very talented player and a Grand Slam champion) do not draw crowds to tennis matches or fans are not drawn to her. Clearly, he did not watch today’s match with Schiavone and Hantuchova, when Schiavone showed us just why she is a Grand Slam champion. She had the crowd in Centre Court in her home country on their feet with her performance today. Perhaps Mr. Couch should have been watching that match, rather than trolling the internet looking at Serena’s twitter picture (or maybe he did not get to see it seeing as it was not on Tennis Channel).

Mr. Couch and his cohorts in the media, and those who continue to use their positions to deride the women’s game need to be called to account. For too long they have used their positions to belittle the women’s game.

The constant criticism of the grunting in women’s tennis, never mind that the current No. 1 player in the world, grunts like he is climbing Mount Everest and having a hard time of it. The current No.2, Novak Djokovic (grunts), Verdasco (grunts), Federer (grunts), almost every single Spanish player (grunts), some of them so loud that you cannot even hear the commentary in the booth at times. The only comment is this “what an effort from [insert name here]. When the women do it, they are not exerting effort. Oh no. They are just doing it because they are cheating. It annoys me that former players such as Carillo and Navratilova have joined the bandwagon in criticizing the women’s game in relation to this but I guess if you want to be considered one of the boys, what better way than to join up against the women.

Of course the women grunt, but they also play tennis. How about commenting on the tennis and leave the grunting out of it. Is it distracting to fans? Sometimes, it is. Is it turning fans away? Only because the media continues to put emphasis on the issue. During every single broadcast of a tennis match featuring Azarenka, Sharapova or Venus, the first thing that you hear is the hue and cry about grunting.

I, like many fans of women’s tennis are waiting for the day when Serena Williams returns to the tennis court. As it is she is not playing the French Open. Rather than the media speculating about a picture that Serena Williams posted, how about letting fans know who the early round contenders are? How about doing some homework before the start of play so that fans can be properly advised about the current crop of players.

I will not be holding my breath for that to happen.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I feel like I am beating a dead horse. A really dead horse.

Last week it was Madrid. A few weeks ago it was Miami. Before that Indian Wells and now we are in Rome. The paucity of women’s tennis on Tennis Channel is infuriating. Thanks to Eurosport and live streaming I was able to watch some of the women’s matches that were played in Rome today, but every single match today that was shown on Tennis Channel was all about the men’s game.

Professional Women Tennis Players Have a Responsibility to the Sport

A few years ago when Fox had the rights to broadcast Indian Wells and Miami, a reporter asked Roger Federer, then the NO. 1 player in the world as to whether he had seen his next opponent. His response was no, because there was no television coverage of the matches and he was unable to even watch any tennis from his hotel room. Since that time the tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami have discontinued their agreement with Fox and now coverage of these events is carried by Tennis Channel, ESPN and CBS/ABC.

I am wondering which of the many female players who are currently earning multi-million dollar endorsement contracts and who are being touted as the most searched face, body or whose very presence at a tournament brings in thousands of fans will have the gumption to say categorically when she is asked about her next opponent say that she has not seen her play because there is no televised coverage of women’s tennis.

We have 2 of the biggest names in women’s tennis who sit on the WTA Players Council. In addition the current No.1, Caroline Wozniacki also sits on the Players’ Council. One hopes that at some point in time the issue of lack of coverage of women’s tennis comes up in discussion when the Council meets to discuss the path that women’s tennis is taking.

More and more at even the Grand Slams, the women are scheduled on courts that have no television coverage and even worse, women who have been successful at these events have found themselves scheduled on courts that are notorious for pulling upsets.
At what point will the Sharapovas, Ivanovics, the Hot Shots, the Williams Sisters, Wozniacki, Azarenka and many others have their voices be heard and decide that this can no longer continue.

The ATP has its Masters Series tv. Fans can, and have paid numerous amounts of money to be able to watch tennis online. They have a feature where they can even go and watch archived matches. The ATP has ATP World Tour, a programme that showcases the ATP, from the NO. 1 player in the world, to the player not even ranked. It makes fans of men’s tennis be able to know their players and see who is coming and who is going. What does the WTA have? A stupid YouTube programme called Hot Shots. What does it do? It show cases players, some of whom have never won a singles title on how to become a marketer’s dream. It does not aid them in becoming better professional tennis players. It is showing them how to market themselves so that sponsors can see them and offer oodles of money to sell their products.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the whole point of being a professional tennis player was to win titles and to be the best or one of the best at whatever you do, but apparently the WTA sees its mandate as somewhat differently.
Many years ago, 9 women took their future into their hands. They separated themselves from the archaic professional tennis circuit and formed a Tour for professional women. The money earned by those women is paltry compared to what today’s tennis players are earning. Has it ever crossed the minds of the women playing today that if they pool their resources together they could not form their own network.

Can you imagine if someone with the business sense of a Venus Williams, joins up with a media name like Sharapova and has someone with the background of a Lindsay Davenport and have people like Clijsters, Navratilova and many other women, both retired and active, coming together, that a network such as this would not be successful.

Tournament directors would pay a price to have their tournaments aired in conjunction with the WTA. There would be some form of profit sharing. All the money that is currently being spent by sponsors on individual players could go towards purchasing advertising space for these women.

Nike recently upped Sharapova’s contract and is reportedly paying her US$25M. Lord only knows what Serena Williams is getting. Ana Ivanovic has a lifetime contract with Adidas. Wozniacki is a marketer’s dream (or so we are being told) and there are many other women who are up and coming whose Federation will no doubt back them in this venture.

Perhaps it is time that women’s tennis starts looking outside the box in the way it promotes itself. For too long it has been riding on the coat-tails of the ATP. There was a time not so long ago when that was not the case.

Come on women. You now have more than the power. You have the money to go with that power. Make it happen.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Sorry for the no blogging but there has not been a lot to talk about in terms of women’s tennis on tv, except the lack of women’s tennis being shown on my tv.
This week we have the Mutua Madrilena Premier Mandatory 5 and Masters Series combined event happening in Madrid, Spain. This event started with main draw play on Sunday, yet up to the time of writing this, unless you are an obsessed fan of women’s tennis, the only coverage that you will see is that being shown on your computer screen.

We have had Grand Slam champions, former No.1s, current No. 1s and a whole slew of up and coming stars playing this tournament on the women’s side and to date, not one match for the women has been shown on the women’s side. NOT A SINGLE MATCH.
I refuse to watch this tournament. I have Tennis Channel at home, but I refuse to watch a tournament that is supposed to be a combined tournament and the women are never shown until those in authority deem it worthwhile to show women’s tennis. If Tennis Channel or any other entity has a problem in obtaining rights to the women’s matches, then the WTA needs to ensure that a sit down is done with Tennis Channel to ensure that women’s tennis at least gets some form of tv time in these events.

We have a slew of combined events coming up during the rest of the season. Rome is next week, then when the Tour returns to North America, there will be Toronto and Montreal, then Cincinnati and then the Asian swing. Are you going to tell me that this is what fans of women’s tennis will have to put up with? We will be seeing a whole slew of mediocre male players grunting their way to a victory or a loss while the scores for the women are scrolled at the bottom of the screen, or fans have to rely on tennis fans in Europe or bloggers on the ground tweeting about what is happening?

This just cannot continue and the WTA must see that the women’s tour is getting the shaft in this situation.

As I write this, Caroline Wozniacki is heading to a third set with Julia Georges. Most fans will recall the awesome match that these 2 women played recently in Stuttgart and this one from the looks of it has been a good one so far. At the same time as this is happening Tennis Channel was airing Fit to Hit when I last checked the schedule and I ensured that I checked Tennis Channel before changing the channel to ensure that I got it right.

Women's tennis is being given short thrift these days by commentators who are quickly selling the view that women's tennis is boring. The NO. 1 player is boring. Her game is boring and that all the women have no variety and are not worth watching. We even have former champions of the game pouring cold water on women's tennis and bemoaning the lack of rivalries etc. and comparing it to the 1990s. I disagree with all of this, but that will be a post for another time.

The women's game if many took the time to watch it instead of complaining about being bored, and about grunting (which happens on both Tours by the way), should talk about why is it that it is the women who are using all forms of social media to promote the sport? Why it is that it is the female players who are bringing a level of enthusiasm to the sport and why it is that there are more female personalities that fans can now identify with who are moving the sport forward.

Many fans of tennis do not even bother to watch tennis during clay season especially on the men's side because there is usually only one winner of all the events. Going into Roland Garros with the absence of some of the potential favourites for that major, there is uncertainty as to who will walk away with the trophy on the women's side. The potential for upsets and great news stories abound in women's tennis. We cannot say the same for the men's game.

Sport is supposed to make us root for the underdog. Sport should bring a level of uncertainty which makes our hearts pound and our mouths water. As it is right now the women's game brings this. Why is this not being promoted?

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Women’s tennis is at its transition phase. There is no doubt about it.
In every era, fans of women’s tennis have to get used to the idea that players that we have grown accustomed to seeing performing at their best will eventually leave the Tour to make way for a new breed. This is how it goes in all aspects of our lives, whether we want to believe it or not.

Journalists, fans and other media practitioners have taken the WTA Tour, and its veterans to task for their inability to keep the Tour alive. I disagree with this notion. I think the WTA Tour as it stands is at its transition phase. We have seen it before in the 70s, 80s, 90s and now in the 2000s. At some point in time these professional women have to start listening to their bodies and in some cases their significant others and decide that it is time. Time to put down the racquets. Time to stop travelling the world. Time to stop practicing. Time to stop going to the gym every day. Just TIME.

For fans of the new breed of veterans. The Venus, Serenas, Kims, Justines, etc of the Tour, it is heart rending to say the least to watch such quality players take the court less and less. Someone said to me today after Clijsters’ loss that it seems as if with Justine, Serena and Venus not around, she does not seem motivated to compete. That could very well be true. There is no doubt that these 4 women pushed each other to great heights. They forced each other to raise the level of their games when they met.

I recall that between 2003-2005 when neither Williams Sister was playing on a regular level, the era was known as the Battle of the Belgians. Kim and Justine would meet as often as Venus and Serena. During this time we also hold Amelie and quite a few other veterans, including Sharapova. Today, we have these former Grand Slam champions struggling through injury and motivation to try and find their way back to the top of the game.

The media and fans would like them to continue.

In listening to the commentary during the last 2 weeks of the Winter hardcourt swing of Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, the consensus seems to be from every commentator that having Maria Sharapova in the mix is good for the game. I would go further. I think having the veterans competing against the new breed is good for the game.

This sport is not about one player. It is about a professional Tour. A Tour that encompasses women from all walks of life. There are women out there who are competing because it is their job. There are others who are doing it for the legacy that it will bring them. Hall of Fame accolades and the like. To have the media think that this sport. This wonderful sport built by generations of strong women who dedicated their whole lives so that women of today could benefit, is all about one player are delusional.

These days I like to see competition amongst the women. I too will regret the day when I can no longer see Venus striding across the lawns of Wimbledon, holding herself as regal on the grass as no one else in women’s tennis can. I long to see Serena Williams’ serve and that forehand and her hitting that backhand off the back foot and seeing that fierce look of calm determination as she stands across the net to return serve. I enjoy seeing the look of determination on Sharapova’s face as she battles her opponents and these days herself. I like the contemplative look on Clijsters’ face as she ponders her next move. I like the eagerness of Azarenka, and the happiness that she now seems to enjoy both on and off the court. I like to watch the wheels of Radwanksa’s head turning as she slices, and dices the ball to give her opponent’s fits, and finally, I like the look of the current World’s No.1, Caroline Wozniacki, a player who does not get as much credit as she deserves in this wonderful sport.

In short, I love what the WTA has to offer, both from the veterans and the new breed.

The game is in transition and I for one while dreading what lies ahead am surely looking forward to what the WTA will do next.